Since 2007, FEMA has conducted the National Household Survey (NHS) to assess the development of a culture of personal disaster preparedness and resilience in the American public. Specifically, the NHS measures individual preparedness attitudes and behaviors and investigates what factors influence individuals to begin preparing for a future hazard.
The NHS includes 5,000 respondents including both a large representative national level sample and a series of smaller hazard-specific samples.
- 68% of adults have pursued three or more of the six basic preparedness actions
- 68% of adults have set aside some money for an emergency
Emergency Plans in Wildfire Areas
While we are enduring the COVID-19 pandemic, the most important protective action for a wildfire is evacuation.
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused serious supply shortages across the country, including N-95 masks. This means that individuals living in wildfire risk areas must make plans to evacuate early to protect themselves and their families.
- Remember: Wildfires can spread quickly and can cut-off evacuation routes without notice. Make a plan to stay safe and evacuate early. When planning, review multiple evacuation routes from locations you and your family frequent as this can be an important factor in surviving a wildfire.
- Follow instructions from local emergency managers who work closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies and partners. They will provide the latest recommendations and appropriate safety measures based on the threat to your community. If you are under a wildfire warning, get to safety right away.
- COVID-19 concerns add to the urgency of planning ahead for an evacuation. Due to limited space as a result of COVID-19, public evacuation shelters may not be the safest choice for you and your family. If possible, make plans to shelter with friends or family.
- Emergency plans should include possible evacuation locations and take into consideration the age and any underlying conditions that you or your family members may have.
There is (a little) good news!
- As preparedness leaders, we need to help those at risk for wildfires to understand that their plans must also include details for evacuation and sheltering.
Emergency Supplies for Wildfire Areas
Do you have the right supplies for a wildfire?
- If you already have one at home, set aside a respirator, like an N95 respirator, to keep smoke particles out of the air you breathe. Respirators are not meant to fit children. Due to COVID-19, it may be difficult to find respirators.
- Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. In addition, consider avoiding WIC-approved products so that those who rely on these products can access them.
Residents in wildfire areas have become more prepared in all six basic preparedness actions.
- Wildfire preparedness is a local community effort. Increases in talking with others (+12%) participating in an emergency drill (+17%) and attending a local meeting (+1%) show that more individuals are taking community preparedness actions.
- Only 35% of those living in wildfire areas have attended a local meeting or training. A great way to help members of your community while practicing social distancing is to organize virtual meetings for communities, such as virtual homeowners association or townhall meetings. By holding virtual meetings, you can help individuals living in wildfire-prone areas attend a local meeting or training to learn more about wildfire preparedness.
- Seeking information on preparedness and making an emergency plan are closely related as seeking information often precedes making a plan.
- In addition, few people received important information like how to plan (13%), how to evacuate (7%), and how to shelter (4%). Providing information about how to create an emergency plan and emphasizing important plan aspects, like evacuation and sheltering, will raise awareness and encourage folks to take the next step and create useful emergency plans.
What are the key influencers to hazard preparedness?
The NHS gathers information on four factors that influence a person’s decision to begin preparing for a future hazard. The following infographic shows the change from the 2019 findings to 2020 findings.
- Just over half the population (52%) living in wildfire areas feel they can prepare for a wildfire and that their preparations would actually make a difference. Messaging and programs that emphasize the value of preparedness and help build confidence in one’s ability to prepare will increase the level of preparedness for those living in wildfire areas.
- Experience with a disaster increased by 4 percentage points since 2019. This could help explain why we saw the large increases in both efficacy (up 6 percentage points) and information seeking (up 9 percentage points) since 2019.
Stages of Change
How have disaster preparedness behaviors changed since last year for people living in wildfire-prone areas?
While the proportion of adults with no intention to prepare decreased by half (5% in 2020 from 10% in 2019) and the percentage of individuals who reported intent to prepare increased (25% in 2019 and 31% in 2020), the percentage of adults who perceive themselves as prepared remains largely unchanged. To assist individuals in moving beyond the mere intention to prepare, messaging, programs, and services that motivate or provide opportunities to take action or build skills will help individuals living in wildfire-prone areas become more prepared.
- 2020 National Household Survey: https://community.fema.gov/story/2020-NHS-Data-Digest-Summary-Results
- National Household Survey Datasets on OpenFEMA (raw data): https://go.usa.gov/xpmBU
- FEMA Preparedness Research: https://www.ready.gov/preparedness-research
- Wildfire Preparedness Tips: https://www.ready.gov/wildfires
- Wildfire Animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWhTdfHQWqs
- Wildfire Information Sheet: https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/wildfire-information-sheet.pdf